Julie Hirota, director of Blue Line Arts, aptly describes the current show at the Roseville gallery as having a holiday spirit without being “Christmasy.”
In “Saints and Heroes: Charles Barth and David Gilhooly,” both artists make wry, sometimes sharp-edged satires that combine pop culture, kitsch and art – both fine and folk.
A “lucha libre” Mexican wrestler takes center stage in Barth’s print “Household Saints.” Like the other figures in the print he wears a halo over his ominous mask. Surrounding him are a pantheon of saints, both religious and secular, all surmounted by a Mayan or Aztec deity.
In one of Gilhooly’s constructions, “Village Turtles at the Last Supper,” mutant turtles in Village People guises sit around a table presided over by a clueless rube holding a sandwich. A fireman, a sailor, a biker and an Indian chief are among the plastic turtles who pay tribute to a homely, very un-Christlike figure.
Barth, an American who lives in Oaxaca, gives us hard-edged images that are both scary and humorous. For example, he pays tribute to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in a rich, luminously colored intaglio etching, and to a famous Mexican wrestler in “La Boda de El Santo” (Wedding of The Saint). In it, the Mexican wrestler who is known as The Saint is attended by Frida, Diego and a Day of the Dead skeleton in a veil.
In “Jutos,” he gives us an ominous “lucha libre” figure attended by the Virgin of Guadalupe and a cast of characters from popular and folk culture. In the gouache painting “Paraiso de Oaxaca,” he presents a muscular version of Adam and Eve, looking like superheroes from comic books.
In like spirit, Gilhooly offers a takeoff on Thomas Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy,” here presented as a shadowy outline filled with cheap plastic superhero toys. In other works he sends up the “Mona Lisa,” Norman Rockwell’s Americana figures, Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Albrecht Dürer’s “Praying Hands.”
Gilhooly, who was born in Auburn and found fame as a seminal figure of Davis Funk Art, died in 2013. Though best known for his ceramic frog kingdom, his section of the show is a mini retrospective of the constructions he turned to later in his life. These pieces made of plastic toys, jigsaw puzzles of famous artworks and miniature ornate picture frames adhere to and extend the Dada spirit of his whimsical ceramics into sometimes darker realms.
In “Two Funerals, No Wedding,” he pays tribute to his teacher and colleague Robert Arneson and Jackson Pollock, whom Arneson so often memorialized. In “Icon,” he pays tribute to another hero, Andy Warhol.
With tongue in cheek, in “Aphrodite,” he juxtaposes a Greek nude with Popeye and Olive Oyl. He gives us several takes on “Mona Lisa,” making s’mores and appearing on an Etch-a-Sketch screen, for example. And Mr. Potato Head is much in evidence, appearing in a number of works including the punning “Origin of Feces.”
In several works he addresses his mortality. In one he fantasizes giving himself a heart transplant. The title of one dark-edged piece is “When his time is up, Dave knows his body is just a slab of meat.”
I have to admit when I first saw Gilhooly’s plastic toy constructions I was disappointed. I longed for the touch of human hands in his funky ceramics. But this show demonstrates that his humor took a more pointed satirical spirit in his later works.
The pairing of Barth and Gilhooly is a complementary one that makes a strong show, though either artist could have warranted a one-person show.
Saints and Heroes: Charles Barth and David Gilhooly
Where: Blue Line Arts, 405 Vernon St., Suite 100, Roseville
When: Through Jan. 3. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; public reception, 7-9 p.m. Saturday
Information: (916) 783-4117